Today, Disney’s feature film library offers a wide variety of worlds, characters, and stories. When the first of Disney’s Dragons made his “reluctant” appearance, that library consisted of only four films, with two being made up of short vignettes. Before reaching their second iteration of the majestic beasts, the studios added quite a bit more to that library. The twentieth animated feature, and fortieth overall Disney feature, brought us to meet the second of the great Disney Dragons- Maleficent. And she’s even still hanging about.
Maleficent, Mistress of All Evil and Second of Disney’s Dragons
The second Dragon of Disney is quite a departure from her predecessor. For one, she’s not purely a dragon. By now there are a few different stories about what or who Maleficent is but for the sake of this series we’re sticking to the animated features (with just one little exception). So today we’ll just focus on her role in the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty.
Clutching a magic staff and accompanied by her pet raven, Diablo, Maleficent bursts into the christening of Princess Aurora. A chill wind accompanies her rather off-putting and icy demeanor as she questions the oversight that left her off the guest list. The good fairy Merryweather informs her that she isn’t wanted and the “mistress of all evil” begins to take her leave. But before she goes, she curses the infant princess to a youthful death once she reaches her sixteenth birthday.
A little good fairy magic helps keep the curse from killing Aurora, exchanging her fate for a deep slumber, but it is easy to tell that she is feared by pretty much all. Even the good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, say they aren’t powerful enough to reverse what Maleficent’s magic has wrought. King Stefan and his queen are quietly afraid, though Stefan does send his guards at Maleficent after her curse is placed.
The true extent of her power is not really seen for another sixteen years. We do learn that, though very powerful, Maleficent does not know everything. After the good fairies take the young princess into hiding, Maleficent can not locate her. It actually takes a careless slip up by the girl’s magical protectors for the Mistress to locate her. Once Aurora is located, it seems all too easy for Maleficent to lure her into the trap that puts her into a deep sleep.
Maleficent enjoys making her victims suffer as well. If the sixteen year curse was not proof enough, she captures the newly in love Prince Phillip and condemns him to her dungeon. Though easily powerful enough to kill, she chooses to keep him safe and alive to waste a hundred years and then finally get his chance to see his love and wake her.
A little intervention from the good fairies allows us to see how powerful Maleficent can truly be. As they help Phillip escape, the villain conjures lightning and a forest of thorns to stop the valiant prince. But when he begins to break through to Aurora’s resting place, Maleficent unleashes “all the powers of hell” and transforms into a massive dragon. Black and purple along the body with wings that mimic her cloak and horns that mimic her headgear, she breaths fire and chomps at Phillip. Though she is fierce and relentless, her dragon form is not enough to withstand the enchanted sword gifted to Phillip by the good fairies. After a bit of a chase, Maleficent is struck in the breast by the blade and falls to her doom.
Though the film Sleeping Beauty did not perform well in its initial release like the Reluctant Dragon, it would eventually find its fan base and become a profitable film years later. For many, Maleficent is a great reason why the film has found sustainability well after it had seen an initial flop. In fact, the character continues to live on today in a variety of forms. Over the last few years, Angelina Jolie, Kristin Bauer van Straten and Kristin Chenoweth have each delivered a different live action version of the villain. She continues to be used in video games and literature and even finds her way into Disney Parks attractions and merchandise.
Though many have their own personal favorite Disney Dragon, it is hard to disagree that this one is definitely the most known. Seeing Maleficent mouse ear headbands in the parks or watching Mickey himself battle her in Fantasmic helps give her a definite headstart at being the greatest of the Disney Dragons.
But this isn’t a competition and we have a bunch more awesome Dragons of Disney to come. The next one will be flying your way before you know it!